« AnteriorContinuar »
powers, to apprehend and receive the truths presented to it-to apprehend, receive, and rely on Christ, who is the sum and substance of these truths.
voices, dreams, visions, he has communicated with | wrought in the soul by the Holy Spirit. While The truths thus received, he commanded men listen to the communications made to them to be written down; and these writings compos- by the word of God, the Holy Spirit, having ing the scriptures, he hath, in his providence, pre- communicated spiritual life to the soul originally served, and sent forth among the nations, a faith-dead, enables it, in the exercise of its renewed ful and full record of the way by which man may be recovered to holiness and happiness. Then there is the voice of the living teacher reading these scriptures, or drawing his statements of divine truth from their pages. Now, hearing refers to all these. It is a hearing God, whether speaking to men, as he did of old to the prophets and apostles; or speaking to us by his word, when we are reading that word, and pondering its contents; or speaking to us the things contained in the word, by the mouth of his living servants.
Faith cometh by this hearing. The sinner simply hears the communication from God-the doctrines, precepts, facts, warnings, promises, recorded in the word, and from this hearing follows faith. To this statement agree all those places of scripture where we have an account of men coming into the possession of saving faith. It was from hearing the word of God, in the preaching of Peter, on the day of Pentecost, that faith came unto the three thousand. The faith of the Ethiopian eunuch came from hearing the word of God, recorded by Isaiah, and explained by Philip. The faith of Cornelius came from hearing the word of God, in the preaching of Peter. The faith of Mary came from hearing Christ. The faith of Lydia came from hearing the word of God, in the preaching of Paul. The faith of the men of Antioch came from hearing the word of God, in the preaching of Paul and Barnabas.
Since, then, salvation cometh through faith, and faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God, with what faithfulness, affection, and fulness, should the word be preached! Lord, make all ministers feel that theirs is an important work. Holy Spirit, furnish them, quicken them, direct them, bless their preaching.
With what care, desire, and diligence should we read and hear the word! By it cometh that which is our life. Apart from it, we can have no salvation. Refusing or neglecting the word of God, we must soon sink down into eternal ruin.
With what humility should we receive its statements! Cavilling and opposition-how unbecoming in creatures receiving a communication from the Creator! O my soul, sit thou at the feet of Jesus, and with humble gratitude receive and obey his word.
And finally, since it is only the Holy Spirit who makes hearing issue in faith, let me constantly and earnestly pray for the Spirit to be with me, in his quickening, illuminating power, whenever I read, or hear the word.
I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase,' 1 Cor. iii. 6, 7. WHEN the amiable Melanchthon was converted, gospel truth seemed to him so plain and per
But some will say, you make faith a very simple thing indeed, if it comes merely by hearing the word of God. True, it is simple in one sense, so simple that its simplicity becomes a stumbling-block to many. But in another sense it is not so simple and easy. For the hearing by which it comes must be the hearing of the word of God. Now, how many do not hear the statements of scripture as statements that are made by God, very sel-suasive, that he thought he only needed to predom think distinctly of the Bible as God's word, and never own the truths of the Bible as truths invested with God's authority? Such persons cannot attain to faith, because, whilst in respect of the matter they do hear the word of God, they do not in fact hear it as his word; it is before their mind only as the word of man; regarded as true, perhaps, but wanting the weight of divine authority to give a perfect assurance of its truth, and to invest it with importance.
Besides whilst faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God, faith is a grace
sent it to the minds of his fellow-men, to secure its immediate and cordial reception. But to his surprise and grief, he found his statements of it treated with indifference and neglect, and he was compelled to confess that old Adam was too strong for young Melanchthon. Perhaps the feeling that at first possessed Melancthon, is more or less that of every new convert to genuine religion; and probably it glows warmly in the breast of every pious young minister. But the experience of Melanchthon will be their experience, and they will arrive at a conclusion similar to his. Man's
corrupt nature cannot be overcome by any merely | indifferent to the result of his ministration. But human efforts. The sweetest, or the most solemn, he is to look to a work of the Holy Spirit for or the most awful views of divine truth, do not success, he is to desire that work, he is to pray change the sinner's heart. And what has been for it. Planting and watering with all the dilithe instrument in impressing and converting one, gence and devotedness of one who has received is tried on another, and utterly fails. A text of the command of God to do so, he is ever to bear scripture which has been the seed of spiritual life in mind that the increase must be caused by the to one soul, is presented to another soul, and great power of God. Thus God's command will never touches it at all. And thus the experience keep him to duty, and the feeling that God alone of every warm-hearted, zealous minister, is brought giveth success when and where he pleaseth, will into accordance with the word of God, which produce an entire dependence on God, and secure teaches, that whilst human instruments are em- for him all the glory. ployed, the success is entirely God's work. 'Paul planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.'
Ministers are nothing but instruments. God appoints them their work, and that work it is their duty to perform with all heartiness and fidelity, and with such desires, and expectations of success, as the word of God warrants. But that success is to be the work of another-the result of a secret active energy, giving spiritual life and vigour to the soul of man. One man puts a plant into the ground, another goes and waters that plant, but it needs the power of God to make the plant germinate, spring up, and yield increase. They who plant and water do something towards an end, but that end itself they effect not; another and higher, even God, accomplishes it. So one minister may instruct us, and another may refresh our memories by a frequent and affectionate statement of truths previously learned. But a divine power is needed, before the heart on which these truths fall, possesses and manifests spiritual life, or brings forth the fruits of holiness.
This doctrine of the Spirit of God alone giving the increase, should have a practical effect on both ministers and people. Ministers should plant and water-instruct, exhort, plead diligently, perseveringly, affectionately, but praying earnestly for, and wholly depending on the divine influences for success. Preaching to a congregation of sinful men, they are like Ezekiel prophesying over the dry bones. Strange, hopeless work, that of the prophet, in the estimation of carnal men! As hopeless that of a gospel minister, in his own estimation, if only he himself is to be looked to. But as the prophet bidden, behoved to obey, though having no power to effect the result to which his words pointed, so must every minister have a regard to his appointed work, though knowing that not a single soul has he the power savingly to benefit. Not that he is to be
And what should the people have in view in going to the house of God? The benefit of the precious soul. And how may we obtain that? Solely through the grace of God, and by the work of his Holy Spirit. It matters not what be said, or how it be said, or who say it, except the Spirit of God quicken the seed of the word. Good seed, indeed, there must be; the word of truth must be set forth; but except a divine power operates on the heart, no fruit follows. In the use of all means of grace, then, it should ever be distinctly borne in mind, that God alone giveth the increase. Whenever I open my Bible, my heart should be lifted up to God in earnest prayer for his Spirit to quicken and teach me. And when I go to hear the word preached, my supplication should be for the preacher, that he may stand in God's strength, and feed in God's counsel; but my thoughts, and desire, and prayer should pass beyond him. I should have a deep conviction of the inability of all human, yea, of all created agency, to give life to the spiritually dead, or growth in grace to the living. Thoroughly persuaded that the Spirit of God alone giveth life and refreshing to the soul through the word, my prayer should be for the Spirit to come graciously to my soul, and I should have a felt deep dependence on his divine influences. Thus sensible that I need the Holy Spirit, and desiring and expecting him, let me go and hear what God the Lord will say to me by his ministering servant.-Were it always thus with me, my soul would benefit more than it does from the means of grace; for I would be honouring God's free method of salvation, and especially, I would be giving due honour to the Holy Spirit, who, even by Christians, is too little regarded and honoured.
May the necessity of divine influences be fully recognised, and deeply felt in the church of Christ. And whilst there are earnest prayers that God would raise up able and faithful ministers, like Paul and Apollos, may there be a genuine and thorough conviction present to the minds of God's people, that the most able and
faithful ministers are only instruments by whom must be perused frequently and diligently. It God worketh, and that the energy and power by which the work is done, is the direct and immediate energy of the Holy Spirit on the soul. Lord, make thy ministering servants willing to be nothing, that all the glory may be thine. And spread, in thy church, an anxious longing, and an earnest prayer for the outpouring of the Spirit, and along with that let there be an opening of men's hearts to receive his quickening, renewing, and refreshing influences.
Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me,' John v. 39.
bears absurdity in the very face of it to say, that a man searches the scriptures, who only spends, in a whole week, an hour or half an hour, or perhaps not so much, on the sabbath day, in reading the bible. You need your daily bread to nourish your body; but you also need daily nourishment to your soul. Perhaps you have no relish for the daily reading of the scriptures-no appetite for the spiritual food which they afford. But be persuaded to take a little of that food daily; its tendency is to produce an appetite for more; it will make you hunger and thirst after righteousness. The word of God is both medicine and food to the sin-diseased soul. It purges away corruption, it heals the disease of sin, and it nourishes and strengthens the renewed nature, the spiritual man.
I believe that there are professing Christians who make a conscience of daily reading a portion of the scriptures, but who do so merely for the purpose of fulfilling what they consider to be a duty, and not with any earnest desire to obtain a saving knowledge of divine truth. Conscience would reprove them if they neglected their morning or evening chapter, but they feel no uneasiness at learning little or nothing from that chapter. They read for the purpose of reading, not of being instructed by reading. Now though such
WERE the last will and testament of some individual disposing of a large property put into your hands, your conduct regarding it would be regulated by the interest which you supposed yourself to have in such a deed. If you were merely a public officer to whose keeping it was to be entrusted for preservation, you would probably, without opening it, lay it aside in the usual depository. If you were a lawyer appointed to defend or impugn its validity, you would read it carefully, with a reference to its legal construc-persons read, yea, daily read, they cannot be said tion, and the signatures attached to it. If it was a very ancient deed, and you had a taste for antiquarian researches, you would examine the forms of expression made use of, and note the information regarding old places and customs which it contained. But if it was a last will and testament in your own favour, you would read it carefully and with much interest, to ascertain the amount of the property, and the value of the possessions bequeathed to you.
to search the scriptures. They do not seek for any thing in the scriptures; yet this must surely be implied in searching.
And most necessary of all, whenever you read or meditate on the word of God, breathe the devout earnest prayer that the Holy Spirit may give you an understanding heart and an obedient will, for this essentially pertains to a right searching of the scriptures.
Is it thus that I read my bible? Do I read it very seldom, or read it without searching it? If I do, may the Lord pardon my sin, and cause me to cease from it. Whenever I open my bible, let me have in my mind a desire to be made wiser and better by it. Let me remember that what I am going to read is of divine authority-the word of God, and not the word of man's wisdom in-and that it testifies of Jesus Christ in whom alone we have everlasting life. Taking up the bible with these solemn reverential feelings and thoughts occupying my mind, let me search it for the purpose of becoming wise in the things of Christ-of obtaining more knowledge of his person, his works, his doctrine, his precepts.
The scriptures of the Old and New Testaments have been put into your hands. These two Testaments relate to the same things. They record a free gift by God to the children of men, of Jesus Christ and all his unsearchable riches. They reveal things which you never could have discovered things which are essential to your salvation-the offer of blessings surpassing value all else besides. They are put into your hands invested with all the interest of a testament bequeathing to you a rich and desirable inheritance. They testify of Jesus Christ, God's great gift to the children of men, and of eternal life by him. Therefore search the scriptures.
And reading the scriptures seldom or carelessly is not what is meant by searching them. They
Let no one begin to make excuse. Some allege that they have no time to read the bible
every day-to search into its meaning-to ponder what it breathes. But you regularly attend to the nourishment of the body; is it absolutely impossible for you to do so with regard to the soul? Nay, the busier that you are with worldly occupations, you need so much the more frequently to apply to the word of God. For the more business you have to do, the more need you have of guidance and direction; and the more you are occupied with worldly labours and pursuits, the more you need to come in contact with the scriptures, to prevent you from becoming altogether worldly minded, and utterly forgetting your immortal interests. But then the time,-where is the time to be found by the labouring man, or by him who is exceedingly occupied with an extensive business? Find thou the will, my friend, and I shall have little difficulty in finding thee the time. If you are to have time for any thing, you should have time for taking counsel of God in his word. Say not that the scriptures are full of mysteries, and that you cannot understand them. To almost all those who allege this as an excuse for neglecting it, the bible is a mystery just because they do not search it. There are indeed in it mysteries which none of the people of God have ever fathomed, and the opening up of which is perhaps intended to minister to the enjoyments of the saints along the ages of eternity. But much that you deem mysterious would become clear as noon-day, and beautiful as the truth of God, if you were daily, and diligently, and humbly to search the scriptures.
Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors,' Prov. viii. 34.
THE WISDOM who speaks throughout this chapter, and in various other parts of the book of Proverbs, has generally, and beyond question rightly been understood to be the Messiah. WISDOM is one of the Messiah's names. And there is plainly good reason for that name being given to him. For the scriptures tell us that in him are hid all the treasures of wisdom;' he reveals to us the character and the will of God, and thus makes us wise unto salvation; and he is expressly called the WISDOM of God.' It is Jesus Christ who speaks to us in all the scriptures, whatever the instrument be which is more immediately employed, whether it be priest, or prophet, or evangelist, or apostle.
How then ought we to hear the instruction which WISDOM hath revealed and teaches in the word? Let the Messiah himself answer; 'watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors.' The gates of the Messiah, and the posts of his doors, are any means which he has appointed for obtaining a knowledge of his will; but chiefly they are the places of public worship, and the ordinances in which men unite to praise the Lord, and receive instructions from his word. And how is attendance to be given there? Blessed is the man that heareth me,' saith Jesus Christ, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors."' Can the systematic halfday hearer lay any claim to the blessedness of which the Messiah here speaks? It is quite enough, he says, to go to church once a-day. He goes because he thinks it decent to go. He goes not to be made wiser or better, to enter into communion with God, to delight himself in Jesus and his salvation. Is there anything like watching at WISDOM's gates in such an attendance on ordinances?—anything like waiting at the posts of WISDOM's doors? Verily of waiting and watching there is none. And consequently of the blessedness which WISDOM mentions, there can be none.
But a man may go a step farther in hearing, and yet come short of the blessing which Messiah connects with hearing. All the sabbath instructions may be attended, and still in that attendance there may be neither watching nor waiting. The sabbath comes weekly round, and as a matter of course men dress themselves in their sabbath attire, and go forth and occupy, with due regularity, their accustomed pew in the house of God. But with that they rest satisfied. Some popular preacher may sometimes draw them out on a week day. But as for going to receive instruction, or to worship God in Spirit and in truth, on a week day, that is a thing for which they have no inclination, and which they deem altogether unnecessary. So they think. Can they claim the Messiah's blessing?
the blessing of those who hear him, watching daily at his gates, waiting at the posts of his doors? Let themselves give the answer. Watching daily and waiting imply earnest desire and diligent endeavour. Where there is earnest desire, it will not be pent up within the limits of one day. It will often be going forth in search of its object, and be watchful to discover and embrace every opportunity of obtaining its gratification. And whilst the Lord's day is chiefly honoured by the believer, he will seek, as he has opportunity, his daily spiritual bread; he will certainly prefer an hour in the Lord's house,
before one spent in worldly vanity; and he will | Messiah speaks not of me when he says, ' Blessed strive to redeem from his business a small por- is the man that heareth me, watching daily at tion of time for his soul's refreshment. When my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors.' you look at the thin attendance at most of our week-day sermons, and see the multitudes of idle saunterers who meanwhile throng our streets, and the similar multitudes who, though occupied with business, might ofttimes redeem an hour for their soul's good, think ye that Messiah speaketh of any of them when he says, 'Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors.'
But then, there are numbers who think that their acquaintance with bible truth is great, and that there remains little farther for them to learn. When the things that Messiah, in the word, teaches, are stated to them fully and plainly, they reply that they know all that. But hast thou peace of conscience? Is thy soul at rest? Hast thou found a satisfying portion? If not, then there is something in the scriptures which thou hast not yet learned. There is a knowledge to be drawn from them to which thou hast not yet attained. There is an acquaintance with the bible to which thou art yet a stranger.
Men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you feareth God, to you is the word of this salvation sent,' Acts xiii. 26.
THESE words of Paul, addressed, through the Spirit, to the people of Antioch, embrace also us, and persons of every age and country. Abraham's spiritual seed, and whosoever feareth God,
to them is the word of this salvation sent. The salvation spoken of is that of which Paul had been discoursing, and of which Jesus Christ is the author. It includes all the benefits which flow from Christ's death-all the blessings which by him, and through him, are bestowed on the children of men-all the precious and glorious things promised in the scriptures. The way to get clear, powerful, practical, comforting views of this great salvation, is to take up its promises, its declarations, and its blessings separately; and to remember that God writes beneath each promise or declaration this text, 'To you is the word of this salvation sent.' Let us select a few of the glorious truths of the gospel, and add to them the faithful declaration of God, kindly encouraging us to appropriate an interest in them to ourselves.
Jesus Christ saith, ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you.' And it is written, 'God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation.'
How much carelessness and indifference is there in the ordinary hearers of the word, through an opinion that there is little more for them to learn in regard to divine truth! And yet such an opinion is utterly groundless. Who of the most learned has exhausted human knowledge, or any branch of it. Strange folly, then, to think of having learned all divine truth! In the bible there is food for babes, and strong meat for strong men. There are truths which those who have only just been born of the Spirit can easily comprehend, and there are things into which the angels desire to look. Diligent waiting on ordi-He hath chosen you in Christ, before the founnances, careful study, prayerful meditation, and honest obedience, lead to continued progress in divine knowledge, grateful to the understanding, and exercising a sanctifying influence on the affections and the life. Hence the blessedness of which the Messiah speaks, and which consists in the life, the light, the vigour, the holiness, the happiness of the soul.
What is my character? Am I a half-day hearer, and think that I do very well indeed in being so. Or am I one who confines my waiting on religious instruction to the sabbath day, and has no relish or desire for spiritual refreshment at other times? Or do I think that I already know enough, or all that is to be known of these matters, and am therefore indolent or indifferent about farther knowledge? If such be my character, then let me understand and reflect that the
dation of the world.' Are not these glad tidings to such as see in themselves no merit before God? God hath saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus, before the world began.' Now, whosoever among you feareth God, to you is the word of this salvation sent.
Our sins are more numerous than the hairs of our head, they are various, and in some instances they are very aggravated. To give real peace, pardon must extend to all our sins: it must be full and complete, applying to every thing which we have done, and reaching to every place in which we can be found. It must be free, for we have nothing to merit it. It must be irreversible, else we will always be in the dread that it may be recalled, and the awful punishment of our sins